Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman’s online trivia game BrainSnort calls itself “the most challenging quiz game in existence.”
The game consists of sets of eight questions in subjects such as history, geography, math, movies, music, kid stuff and Schwartzman’s own field of study: the environment. There are also multisubject sets of questions.
What makes BrainSnort different from most trivia games is that in order to advance, the player must pay a certain amount in virtual coins. Each player starts out the game with 200 coins, but after those coins are used up, more coins have to be bought with real money.
Schwartzman came up with the idea for BrainSnort after designing geography and vocabulary quiz games for his daughters when they were in middle school.
Schwartzman initially asked Andrei Papancea ‘13 to work with him on the game as a programmer, but Papancea was too busy and about to graduate.
Schwartzman put the idea for BrainSnort aside until the 2015-16 school year when Andrei’s brother, Vlad Papancea ‘17 was a sophomore at Knox.
“[Vlad Papancea’s role was] clarifying how the game would look and how it would run,” Schwartzman said.
The younger Papancea also owns 25% of the company.
Schwartzman came up with the gameplay, wrote the questions and ran the business. He also spent $4,000 dollars of his own money developing BrainSnort. Most of that $4,000 has been spent on developing the app and registering the company with the State of Illinois.
Schwartzman had to write 35,000 questions for BrainSnort. Each question takes him about two minutes to write.
To generate ideas for questions and gameplay, Schwartzman spent hours playing the smartphone games Trivia Crack and QuizUp. The main thing Schwartzman learned from playing these games was that he wanted the players of BrainSnort to demonstrate broad knowledge about their subject instead of specializations such as the Civil War or trigonometry.
Schwartzman also wanted to differentiate his app from the others by having players compete against themselves and not other players.
“BrainSnort allows players to play at your own speed. It’s for challenging yourself, which is what I think knowledge is about. Gaining knowledge at your own speed,” he said.
In order to enhance the educational aspect of BrainSnort, Schwartzman might add hyperlinks to Wikipedia and other educational pages discussing the answer to each question in more detail. The game was originally intended to be an iPhone app, but that required more money and time than Schwartzman and Papancea had.
Since the game’s release on May 1, the game has only received $4.00, all of which came within the first month.
“The game has around 160 registred users. Only a handful has started paying,” Schwartzman said.
This does not factor in the unregistered users, which totals in the thousands.
Schwartzman attributes BrainSnort’s lack of success to a lack of advertising. He also wonders if 200 coins is too many for players to start off with before they need to pay.
“In order to want to play something they should get to know what to expect. Maybe the game lets players know too much,” he said.
Despite the setbacks, Schwartzman is going to commit more time to developing BrainSnort by spending time marketing the game over Winter Break.
“I have limited resources to spend on advertising,” he said. “So I have to use social media very carefully and cautiously. I may be doing a Kickstarter. That’s been thought about to gain some publicity. With the Kickstarter we could add a few new elements to the game that could be enticing.”
Schwartzman will be giving a demonstration of BrainSnort this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in Alumni Hall, room 219 as a part of Homecoming weekend. He will also be talking about the word puzzle books he has written.